Pigs on industrial farms are confined to metal crates
so small they cannot even turn around. Unnatural conditions
in the factory thwart a pig’s natural instincts.
Photo courtesy of Animal Welfare Institute.
OCTOBER 21, 2002: Hog Summit 2003 -- the third
summit in 3 years -- is heading for Pennsylvania. With a variety
of offerings, including research reports about factory farming,
workshops on alternative hog production, and activist training,
the Summit draws about 1,500 people from all over the country. The
date and location (late spring or early summer, 2003) will be announced
soon by the lead sponsor, the Waterkeeper Alliance, based at Pace
University in White Plains, N.Y.
The Alliance provides leadership and resources for nearly 100 Waterkeeper-related
organizations formed to protect specific bodies of water (rives,
bays, sounds, channels, coastal areas). A Waterkeeper program advocates
compliance with environmental laws, responds to citizen complaints,
identifies problems which affect the program’s identified
body of water and devises appropriate remedies to address the problems.
For more on the Waterkeepers, check out their web site: http://www.waterkeeper.org
It focuses education and litigation campaigns in three areas, including
the impacts of factory hog farming. Its first two hog summits, in
North Carolina and Iowa, showcased the people, problems and potential
solutions involved with the host region’s hog production systems.
Some background on the rise of Big Pork: Industrial
agriculture first came to dominate broiler and turkey production
in the1970s and ’80s, then moved into hogs in the 1980s and
’90s. The approach is based on a vertical integrator locking
in a rigidly consistent supply (in time, date and meat type) through
contracted arrangements with growers for specific growth phases.
The contractor typically specifies seedstock and feed, while requiring
the farmer-contractee to finance hog housing and waste-management
infrastructure in return for a guaranteed market for each batch
of hogs handled.
These Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) units are subject
to varying amounts of state and local regulation. These standards
exist because of various potential negative impacts, especially
a CAFO’s capacity to cause massive pollution of surface and
ground water if systems for managing millions of gallons of waste
fail or are overwhelmed by floods.
Impacts range from the local (odor, property values, worker health/rights,
water quality) to regional (loss of independent markets, oversupply
of hogs, reduced rural farming population, and weakened farm business
infrastructure). Larger CAFO owners are frequently corporations
who often have not been responsive to those who bear the costs of
these negative changes. Smaller CAFOs may be farm families or family
corporations whose owners feel they must scale up the numbers and
concentrate production to remain economically viable.
Jeff Odefey, staff attorney for Waterkeepers Alliance and part
of the PIG Alliance, a Pennsylvania-based effort to support sustainable
hog production, is the point man for the 2003 Hog Summit. He explains
the nature and intent of these high-profile events to create long-term
capacity to build community-based, environmentally sound hog-production
NewFarm.Org: What does Waterkeepers want to see happen
at the Pennsylvania Hog Summit?
Odefey: We would like to tailor the coming event
to meet the needs of the Pennsylvania activist and farming communities.
To do so, we will invite experts to provide relevant information
on CAFO related topics, e.g, the latest news on the antibiotic resistance
front, an update on the new EPA CAFO regulations (to be released
in January 2003) and Farm Bill EQIP program, recent developments
in pollution research and legal strategies. We
will also offer sessions focused on building activist skills and
effectiveness, often building on the experiences of other citizens/organizations
from around the country.
For the Summit to be an effective tool, it cannot take place in
a vacuum. One of the main reasons for hosting it in Pennsylvania
is that the event fits in as a capacity building component of an
on-going, broadly based, and state-wide effort to oppose the industrialization
of pig production.
NewFarm.Org: What have been the good things to come from
the North Carolina (2001) and Iowa (2002) summits?
Odefey: One of the most positive outcomes of the
two previous summits has been the
increased coordination between activists, concerned citizens, academics,
and public interest groups. The summit provides a much-needed forum
for building relationships and connecting with people or groups
who can provide needed expertise or support.
Following the Iowa Summit, we were able to build partnerships with
local attorneys who then offered legal advice to farmers and other
Iowa residents affected by nearby CAFOs. We were able to bring the
valuable work of academic researchers to a new audience, and we
were able to highlight the successes of "alternative"
pig farming systems.
Really, though, I would argue that confinement is the real "alternative"
to good old sustainable methods.
NewFarm.Org: What is your approach to bringing CAFO production
to public accountability?
Odefey: Waterkeeper Alliance has a four-prong
strategy for confronting industrial
hog production and the pollution it causes.
First, we will bring lawsuits against polluting corporate factory
farms to force them to clean up their act and to bring about operational
changes throughout the industry. We
currently have Clean Water Act and RCRA suits pending against two
facilities in North Carolina, with an expected trial next fall,
and have just filed challenges to North Carolina's general NPDES
permits for feedlots.
Secondly, we are actively engaged in developing consumer education
and action programs to spread the word about the negative impacts
of factory farming and the positive benefits of buying from sustainable
-- even local -- farmers.
Third, we strive to provide information and resources to activists
and concerned citizens. The summit is the largest and most visible
of our efforts towards this end.
And finally, we are very actively advocating for improved CAFO
regulations and policy, at both the national and state levels. We
have worked very hard, along with our coalition partners in the
Clean Water Network, to represent an environmental perspective before
the EPA as it develops the new CAFO regulations, and are engaged
in similar dialogues
with a number of states.
NewFarm.Org: Who are your partners for Hog Summit 2003?
Odefey: The previous summits enjoyed tremendous
support from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Niman Ranch, and
a collection of very effective local activist groups in North Carolina
and Iowa. We could not have succeeded without their help. The coming
year gives us another chance to work with our long-time partners,
such as AWI and GRACE, and to develop new friendships. Waterkeeper
is honored to have as co-sponsors the PIG Alliance, PennFuture and
the Pennsylvania Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).